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Kyle Crawford in New Zealand

December 7, 2015

North Island, NZ - Canadian pitcher Kyle Crawford had every right to toast Fast Pitch Giants defence after they captured a second consecutive North Island Classic men's softball tournament title in Hastings yesterday.



Fast Pitch Giants pitcher Kyle Crawford is all smiles as his catcher and captain Te Rangi Chadwick gloves another strikeout during yesterday's final.

 

ORIGINAL ARTICLE By Shane Hurndell

Canadian pitcher Kyle Crawford had every right to toast Fast Pitch Giants defence after they captured a second consecutive North Island Classic men's softball tournament title in Hastings yesterday.

"The boys played well all weekend and our defence was superb," Crawford said as his teammates congratulated one another following a 5-2 victory against Wellington team Poneke Kilbirnie in the final of the 12-team Just Softball-sponsored 19th annual Classic at Akina Park.

"We did it without any pick-up players. This is our regular Saturday club side so this augurs well as we prepare to go back-to-back with Hawke's Bay premier men's pre-Christmas titles in a fortnight," Crawford said. The fact he was named top pitcher of the tournament will also keep him in contention for selection in the Canada team which will attempt back-to-back world titles in 2017.

"It's going to be a tough ask. There are nine or 10 of us pitchers battling to get the nod ... I just have to keep performing and see what happens when the time comes," Crawford added.

His team's only loss in seven games at the weekend, 12-1 against Johnsonville, came after they had already booked their semifinal berth and several of their first stringers were rested. Two of Crawford's teammates, outfielder Rongo Rapaea and short stop Curtis Huata, also featured on the tournament's prize list.

Rapaea was named top batter and Huata produced the best defensive play in the final which saw Fast Pitch score four runs in the first inning off the pitching of Hawke's Bay-based Black Sox player Jovaan Hanley and one off the pitching of Joel Harris. Another of the Bay contingent on the Poneke Kilbirnie roster, Black Sox outfielder Campbell Makea, said his troops were disappointed with a second consecutive loss in the final after losing 5-4 to the Giants last year.

 

"We were down a few players but we were never going to use that as an excuse this weekend. We didn't come all this way to finish second ... we still had the ammunition to win this event but the final wasn't our best game," Makea explained.

"Fast Pitch took it to us and applied the early pressure. While we must give credit to them we know there will be opportunities to even up the tally later in the season."


 

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The Giants beat Maraenui Pumas 3-1 in their semifinal while Poneke Kilbirnie beat another Wellington outfit, Miramar, 4-0 in their semifinal.

The third Hawke's Bay side, Saints, finished third in their section and were pipped 5-3 by the Junior Black Sox in the plate semifinals after two tie-breaker innings.

Makea's brother Thomas Makea is head coach of the Junior Black Sox team which played in the Classic as part of their buildup to next year's Junior World Series in the United States. They finished fourth in their section and beat Johnsonville 4-2 in the plate final.

"Only six players in our team went to Prague with us earlier in the year so we had eight guys fresh to our regime. We were thrilled with how well they came together on and off the diamond.

"If I had to compare our squad with the one used in the buildup to our Junior World Series last year when we finished second I would have to say this one has better hitters and players with a better understanding of the game so it's looking good in our quest to stay on the podium and hopefully go one spot better."

Coach Makea said the Hawke's Bay contingent of Maraenui Pumas utility Callum Carson and the Saints trio of catcher Jacob Zurcher, pitcher Adam Woon and outfielder Dallas Brown remain in contention for Junior World Series selection.

While the Giants were celebrating back-to-back Classic titles club stalwart Craig Waterhouse was also celebrating the fact five of New Zealand's eight World Series coaches are former Fast Pitch players. They are the Junior Black Sox trio of Thomas Makea and the Martin cousins Bevan and Jarrad and White Sox head coach Kevin Gettins and his assistant Tony Simpson.

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